Joe Root fires England to second ODI victory over Australia to banish Ashes wounds | Cricket | Sport

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Joe RootGETTY

Joe Root fired England to success in the second ODI

His leadership – with both bat and ball – did more than most to give England a 4-wicket win and a 2-0 lead in the One-Day International series.

Root’s part-time spin bowling got the crucial wicket of Steve Smith when the Australians batted. And he followed that up with a calming and ever so patient 46 runs that coaxed home the England batsmen around him when they could quite easily have  gone to pieces like they did in the disastrous Ashes series.

It might not have made amends for the Test debacle, but it certainly helped. And the devoted fans who stayed on to support Root and co were mighty glad they did.

Now, not surprisingly, England go to Sydney on Sunday with a real spring in their steps rather than the dispirited looks they left that city with at the start of the year.

It’s fair to say that the Aussies were smarting over that first defeat in Melbourne and not al that surprisingly either looked to the pace that served them so well in the Ashes to get their own back here.

Mind you, England’s pacemen didn’t seem to cause too much concern to start with as David Warner and Aaron Finch gave Mark Wood and Chris Woakes short shrift. Australia’s  first 50 runs came in 35 minutes without so much as a gulp.

Finch could probably have counted himself a tad fortunate when he lofted one off Liam Plunkett that was just over Woakes outstretched fingers when he was on 31. But then the long suffering Moeen Ali finally got a breakthrough.

Ali hasn’t had the best of times with the ball out here, but he tossed one up to Warner who edged a relatively simple catch to Joe Root, out for 35 just when he was looking settled.

England needed that, but with Steve Smith next in the heat was still on, and we’re not talking about the baking sun either.

The in form Finch and his skipper duly set about Adil Rashid in particular, taking turns to loft the spinner for two huge sixes in seven balls. 

One hundred duly came up after just 74 minutes and less than 17.3 overs, followed by Finch’s 50 off an ominous looking 51 balls.

But then came the prized wicket of Smith – courtesy of Root of all people.

England’s Test skipper got his opposite number lbw with only his fourth ball of his first over – and didn’t he and his teammates jump for joy.

Smith appealed the decision, but hawk eye replays removed any reasonable doubt, and the Aussie danger man was on his way for just 18.

Joe RootGETTY

Joe Root took England to glory at the Gabba

What’s more Root was desperately unlucky not to get Travis Head for just two in his second over as well before he finally nabbed him on seven with a simple caught and bowled soon afterwards.

With figures of 2/9 off three overs at the time he could have been excused for wondering what this bowling lark was all about!

Mitchell Marsh and Finch both had escapes, but there was no stopping Victoria’s favourite son getting his second successive century – and his third in five matches – in 154 minutes.

Eoin Morgan’s hope at that point must truly have been that Finch would do what he did at Melbourne, when he went for 107, and take his mind off the ball after getting his ton.

He did precisely that in almost identical fashion, only on 106 this time, giving Jason Roy a simple catch off Liam Plunkett to end a 114-ball innings that England were mighty pleased to see the back of.

Especially after it came just five balls after Marsh had had a rush of blood when he danced down the wicket to Rashid, missed the ball completely, and looked back to see Buttler taking the bails off.

Marcus Stoinis did even worse, lasting just 11 balls for his six runs before Rashid  bowled him and sparked the sort of middle order mini tumble that England made such an art form out of during that Ashes debacle.

Mitchell StarcGETTY

Mitchell Starc of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Jason Roy of England during game two of

To their credit, and with a little help from the expensive Rashid, debutant Alex Carey and Cameron White stopped the rot with a gutsy partnership of 37 until the wicket keeper was run out  by Woakes for 27 as he desperately tried to boost the Aussie total.

Mitchell Starc followed for three, caught by Roy, trying to hit Woakes out of the ground. Andrew Tye was next – and 271 looked a distinctly achievable target.

But let’s face it, this is England, and the start was disastrous.

After Jason Roy’s heroics in Melbourne Steve Smith had obviously spotted a specific weakness – and our former hero fell right into the trap.

Aaron Finch was posted at short mid wicket and after Starc softened him up Roy planted one straight into Finch’s grateful hands. What a reception that one got!

Alex Hales quietened them down, though. The big fella really looked in the mood, and with Jonny Bairstow looking an able support act, he produced a string of fluent strokes to help England pass 50 in little more than half an hour.

Not as fast as the 50 Roy and Bairstow got in the first five overs at Melbourne, but it steadied the ship after such a dodgy start. 

In fact more than that, it looked plain sailing for the pair of them as the 100 came up in an hour – as did their partnership – with Bairstow getting 50 off 41 balls and Hales topping his half century in 52 balls. And Joe Root hadn’t even been needed.

He was soon, however, when Aussie debutant Jhye Richardson gave Hales a ball he dragged onto his wicket. And no one was more surprised than him.

Hardly any wonder that the young western Australian was mobbed by his teammates after that, because if ever his side needed a wicket it was then.

And when he followed that with the wicket of Bairstow for 60 soon afterward hero status was looking as large as the thunderous black storm clouds that started to loom large over The Gabba.

Take nothing away from both batsmen, though. Hales’ 57 was as cool as they come and once Bairstow got going he looked like knocking the stuffing out of the Aussies – until Mr Richardson embarked on his dream debut.

The rain stayed away, but storm clouds of a different kind appeared when Morgan lasted little more than 20 minutes before Starc bowled him good and proper.

To be honest, the skipper never looked all that comfortable despite some characteristic belligerence, and he offered token resistance to a beauty from the Australian pacemen who was looking intent on carrying on where he left with the Test team.

No doubt about it that Morgan’s departure woke up a partisan crowd who had been fearing the worst up until then. Suddenly this looked like being a lot closer than they expected. 

Enter Jos Buttler, not known for his patience, but on this occasion joining Root to bring calm back to what had become a measured trot for England rather than the charge it had looked like being.

A partnership of 50 in 34 minutes temporarily settled the nerves, until the ever menacing Starc struck again – twice in his last over of the day.

The first one accounted for Buttler, who scored an impressive 42 off 32 balls, but got an edge to to give Alex Carey his first wicket. Then Starc shattered Moeen  Ali’s stumps when the patently nervous bearded one had only one run on the board.

Suddenly the tension soared all around the ground. Teeth replaced nail clippers!

But then Captain Courageous, ideally supported by Chris Woakes, stood his ground and guided England home.